Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

silver on the roadI really wanted to love this book. Variant on the Old West! “The Devil runs an honest house!” People offer their own temptation, the Devil just offers a trade! So many good elements.

Setting: The Devil (who may or may not be the Xtian devil) runs a bar complete with gambling tables in the Old West, and also runs a fairly large territory (complete with various Indian tribes) between the newly independent United States on the Atlantic coast and Nueva Espania on the Pacific Coast. That sounds really exciting!

Izzy starts off on the classic hero journey, leaving home on her 16th birthday in order to become a better version of herself. She makes a deal with the Devil, wanting to become more powerful, and not knowing anything but the Devils house. She gets warned, but figures she has no better options. Symbol of her changed status: uses full name, Isobel. End-game: She gets what she wants, it was harder than she expected, and it does not give her quite the results she expected. Meh. I’m not surprised.

Gabriel offers to mentor bar-girl Izzy on Riding the West. Then the Devil offers him a bargain to do what he offered to do for free, and the Devil knows exactly what will tempt him. We get that explained later in the book. It is not resolved by the end of the story. Meh. Gabriel gets very little character development, just backstory. They’re not the same.

There is an Indian dream walker who does not speak to whites (language? status? other reason?) and as the other Indians speak to Isobel and Gabriel, Izzy tries to figure out if that one is male or female. The narrative uses pronoun ‘they’. They are impressed with Izzy and give her a feather, which is a token of great esteem. What did she do to earn that esteem? Not really sure. Meh yet again.

There’s a sequel. I think I’ll read it just because of the beautiful setting, not the fascinatingly meh characters.


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